Edgar Wright has developed a massive Indie following, after making films like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, the latter three known collectively as the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy. His pedigree is nerd-solid, but his skill as a visual storyteller transcends the “nerd” subculture and sets him firmly in the upper echelons of filmmakers working today. Baby Driver is a perfect example of that visual storytelling, as the entire film jams with the beating cadence of a rock song, the smoothness of a jazz track, and the heart of a good R&B ballad.
In fact, music plays a huge role here, and not just in the soundtrack. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a quirky, uber-skilled getaway driver for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Baby can do things with a car that other people can only dream about while playing with Hot Wheels, and he’s the absolute best at it. His secret is in his iTunes collection (and his many iPods), as he will pop in his iconic white earbuds, slide on a pair of sunglasses, and lose himself in song, allowing himself to never overthink anything, and he always keep his cool. And the music is constant. When not driving cars, music drives his daily life as he takes care of his foster father Joe (C.J. Jones), and falls in love with a waitress named Debora (Lily James). And he does is with all with a thumping back beat and bass line pounding in his ears.
But a life of crime is not what he wants, and he only drives to pay back Doc for stealing his car years before. Baby’s life has been complicated, as his parents died in a car accident when he was a boy — an accident that left him with tinnitus, or constant ringing in the ears, and the music helps alleviate that. As Baby finally gets to that last job, the one that will fully pay Doc back and free him up to devote all of his time to Debora, things go off rails — in his life and on the job — and sets Baby on a road that he can’t maneuver: the road to ruin.
The supporting cast of Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Bernthal as robbers brought in by Doc to pull off various jobs all hit their marks, with Foxx and Hamm shining in their roles. Gonzalez draws the viewers attention with her beauty, and Lily James is so adorable, and such a good match with Elgort’s Baby that I found myself rooting for her and Baby to get away from the life of crime and to live happily every after.
Baby Driver could very well be Edgar Wright’s masterpiece. It is the culmination of so many genres, influences, and styles, even to the point that Baby wears a jacket throughout the film that resembles the vest outfit worn by Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. We know Wright is a huge Star Wars fan, and I cannot help but feel that this wardrobe choice was intentional, as nobody is cooler in our generation than Han-frickin-Solo. The car chases and driving scenes are reminiscent of the best car films of the 1970s, like Smokey and the Bandit and the French Connection, and the crime/heist elements hit notes like in Michael Mann’s Heat and other pulsing crime dramas. And it all works to create something new and exciting.
The music selection are all deep cuts from both popular and indie music darlings. In fact, everything about Baby Driver just oozes coolness. From the first scene to the last credit, this is one film that separates itself from the glut of vapid summer movies and gives audiences a veritable rock show-like experience, one that you want to watch again and again, like listening to a great album. Wright uses these songs not only to score his film, but he subtly uses them as a part of the film as well. Gun shots are timed to beats in songs, the screech of car tires or the sound of police sirens mesh perfectly with the song that’s playing, creating some weird mashup of visual and audio cake for the audience to eat. And again, this is all Edgar Wright’s masterplan.
Baby Driver is one of those rare films that collects many different aspects of other projects and brings them together to create something new and incredible. This film is like listening to live jazz, or a jam band in the 23rd minute of a seven-minute song. You know something special is happening, and all you can really do is sit back let it flow through you, enjoying every beat, every note, as films like Baby Driver don’t come along very often. With an amazing soundtrack, an impeccable cast, and a vibe not seen in theaters since, well, maybe forever, Baby Driver is a must-see film, and the first must-see film of the 2017 summer movie season.
Baby Driver is rated R and is in theaters now.
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